A Bad Plan, Again

by Mark Blackwell

One of the worst things about getting’ older is the lack of surprises. Seems like the older I get, the fewer surprises there are. Up until just lately I thrived on novelty. “Boy golly, what’s gonna happen next” was my motto. Take holidays for instance, Christmas used to be a big deal for me, not so much for the presents but for the surprises. One of the things I loved was having all the relatives gather in and wondering which of ’em was gonna get into what with who this year. I looked forward to seeing who was gonna to get the dumbest gift. And I liked the discovery of how the stuffin’ and persimmon pudding turned out.

But now that I’m on the cusp of geezerdom I realize that it didn’t matter which of my relatives took who’s side in the annual holiday arguments—the arguments were always the same. As far as the dumbest gift goes, well it didn’t take long to figure out that I was always in the running for that. And as far as stuffing and persimmon pudding goes, it takes a heap of misfortune to injure either one of ’em enough to make a difference to me. It don’t take too many years of observing things to get to where it’s easier to make predictions than it is to get surprised.

So, I wasn’t too shocked when I heard that the fellers in charge of the state forests have come up with a “new” plan to quadruple the loggin’ in Yellowwood. I wasn’t stunned to find out that they want to make bigger clear cuts, up to forty acres. I wasn’t stupefied to find out that they plan to log in fragile watershed areas. It’s a bad plan but it isn’t a “new” plan. They were doing the same thing back in the good old days of the 1980s. It was shown to be a bad plan then, because extensive logging and clear cutting cause erosion, water pollution and loss of wildlife habitat. A lot of good people worked hard to get it stopped. But you can’t keep a bad idea down.

It’s what people do when they get elected or appointed to some job in the government—they come up with plans. I suppose they feel like we elect them to do something and so they start doin’ whatever occurs to them to do. Being of the politician persuasion they generally come up with some way or another of giving away the store. The trouble with this idea is that, this time, Brown County is the store.

Now don’t get the idea that I’m against all politicians, I’m not. Brown County has and has had some darned good ones. My favorite, though, is Chris Brummett, from over on Dubois Ridge. He was elected county clerk back in 1915. While most office seekers go around crowin’ about what they’ll do if they get elected, Chris ran on a platform of what he wouldn’t do. And mainly what he wouldn’t do was anything that might cause more hardship to his neighbors than they were already experiencing. Chris won the election handily and then neglected to show up for the job. I find that sort of thing an admirable trait in the politically-minded because I believe that the less you do the less you screw up.

But now we are faced with folks who are motivated by the proposition that nature cannot manage itself and so they, in their infinite and scientific wisdom have to come up with a “strategic plan”. A tree that falls over cannot just be allowed to lay there and rot and provide nutrients and humus to the forest floor. That would be a waste of exploitable resources. And a tree that’s standing might fall over, so why not cut it down before it happens? And if you cut all the trees in a forty acre stand, well there’s forty acres that is not susceptible to falling trees or forest fires. They should call this preemptive logging. Oh, yeah, what about the trees on steep slopes and in the watershed areas? Should we discriminate? The folks who came up with the plan don’t think so.

The one thing we’ve had going for us in Brown County is natural beauty. We’ve got hills and hollers and lakes and streams and especially we’ve got trees. Folks come from all over to hike and camp and hunt in our woods. They come to fish in our lakes and streams. And they come to look at the vistas of color in the autumn leaves. But without the trees to provide autumn colors, habitat for wildlife, protection from erosion on the hillsides and to help slow the siltation of our lakes, what have we got? Mature trees, as living forest, are Brown County’s’ greatest natural resource, not logs.

I’m afraid if the big boys up at the capitol have their way, we can quit thinking of ourselves as the luckiest folks in Indiana, living down here in the hills, sharing our bounty of beautiful forests and pristine lakes. Instead we’ll have to get used to being the chumps with nothin but stumps and sumps.